Montana Wolf

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blackberry Zen and a Pinch of Hellfire

Heading towards Deception Island. I stopped here to photograph porpoise.
Little did I know what the island had in store.

I've hit single digits on the countdown to CAST OFF. Nine days to garner the lessons of the cracked elbow and broken rib and my unplanned journey into the land of constraint. One-handed peck typing. No photography. Gone was the cadence that attached my words to paper. My pen would not reach, no matter what contortionist moves I made. Erin-the-nurse was too good at assuring no wrist would budge. I have bounced like a ping-pong ball between love and hate: one moment, my spiffy purple cast a protector, the next moment a brig. Bottom line, surrender won, as I allowed my body the exhaustion it expressed, napping often and damping down the fire and air that inhabits my soul. I relegated air to utterances delivered on the wing of an osprey, the cackle of a raven, a chickadee chorus. As for fire, I laid naked in the sun at river's edge. And then one morning I lit the oven and commenced to make a blackberry pie.

Blackberry thickets abound in the neighborhood. Before fruit appears they are a tangle of vicious sharp tendrils that snarl pant legs and tear the flesh. Bloodletting is their MO. That doesn't change when shiny, dark juicy berries swell on the branch. Picking them is a slow, careful ritual. Especially one armed. The sweet explosions that made it to my tongue were the motivation for reaching into the bowels of the berry patch, as my fingers bid, let go, I will catch you. Oft times I lost my balance and the quarry fell to the earth, through a chasm of thorns, unreachable. The slower I moved, the more berries made it into the container. As if to taunt, Hobo prowled around, disappearing into the many tunnels he'd forged into the patch. Teak sampled berries at will, never once getting pricked. Songbirds ate seamlessly as I pondered "Breve orazione penetra" -- short prayers pierce -- watching my mind scramble to make sense of the moment. Comically, yes.

The days before my accident I was at the top of my game. I had sent manuscript pages to editor- Em, prepared to send them off. The summer was intoxicating with her gifts of kayak adventures, new women friends and an island lover. Snowmelt runoff over, I was looking forward to hiking above timberline, into flower-laden meadows, fully engaged with the muses, at the gateway of the invisible world. One slip on a boulder and I was re-cast, dreaming the words "red leaf urgency" and contemplating how the wind dies.

I froze three quarts of blackberries. The kitchen filled with holy aroma as the pie baked to perfection. I delivered two pieces to neighbors and watched the energy as the procession of friends, with whom I would share the bounty, momentarily stopped. Yes, universe? The pie sat on the counter, morphing into temptation at its worst. Heaven help me and my thighs if I continued to scoop luscious berry elixir into my mouth.

Then it dawned: the river. I thought about floating the pie downstream in the spirit of Moses, but didn't want to pollute with a pie plate. So handful by handful, I fed the pie to the rush of water that for months had filled my midnight dreams with longing; swept fears and trees down steam like matchsticks to saltwater's door. Like the Natives that offered tobacco to the spirits, I offered blackberry pie to my wild confidante, and prayed for grace. Not long thereafter he appeared...a Lummi Indian fisherman. When I extended my right arm to shake hands, I awkwardly stopped and switched to the left. No, no, he said. Do not apologize. shake with the left is closer to the heart.

I have nine days to journey closer to my heart. Nine, the symbol of endings. Nine days to castoff.

"Then it dawned..." Sunrise out my door. The Skagit River.


  1. Your photographs and written word are great and humorous as usual. Purple is a very good color for a cast and other items. Try to lift your arm above your shoulder to prevent frozen shoulder, if it is not painful. Enjoy your next voyage and those blackberries. Have fun.


    1. Thanks Linda. I sleep like that for some of the night. Doesn't hurt at all. xo

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